Monday, January 19, 2015

Hanging Out With an Illustrator

How much fun did we have with our Google Hangout with Debbie Ridpath Ohi? Tons!

During January, we have been talking about medals books can earn, and have specifically talked about the Caldecott medal with our younger students. Which made this a perfect time to connect with an illustrator! A librarian friend of mine, Jennifer Reed, had recently posted on Facebook about her Skype visit with Debbie, the illustrator of I'M BORED! Debbie mentioned that she was interested in connecting with other schools and to email if you were interested. Always looking for a way to connect our students, I emailed and we set up a virtual visit for mid January, with a practice connection a week or so before. It was during our practice Skype that I mentioned the idea of a Google Hangout (GHO). For some reason, in our district, the image during a Skype is a little blurry. It seems to be better during a GHO. So in the middle of our Skype, we tried a GHO! The really cool thing was she could demonstrate how she illustrates on her computer. I knew our students would love this part!

To prepare, even though I have read I'M BORED! to many of our students, I asked the 2nd grade teachers to read it to their classes. It is such a fun book, written by Michael Ian Black, about a child who is bored. Haven't we all heard a child utter those words? The little girl then meets a potato, who is also bored! She tries to come up with ideas to entertain the potato, which of course keeps her entertained! The illustrations are so fun, and of course the story has students giggling as they listen to it!

While we waited for all of the students to come into the library, Debbie entertained the students with drawings on the shared screen. It was amazing to see how quickly an illustration could appear. 

After everyone was settled, Debbie shared with us how she created the illustrations for I'M BORED. She talked about how the author and illustrated rarely talk or even meet during the creating of the book. Then students were treated to an interactive reading of NAKED, also written by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by Ohi. The students were able to read the word NAKED, which had them all howling with laughter!! (See first picture)

Students were able to ask questions like when Debbie began illustrating, and if she has written any books. 

They were excited to hear that she has written and illustrated a book that will be coming our May, 2015 called WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? We can't wait to add this to our library collection!

Our students were treated to another creation, this one with torn paper. They couldn't wait to share this technique with our new art teacher! I would not be surprised if we didn't have a few budding illustrators at Curtis!

I am always so appreciative of the kindness of authors and illustrators, such as Debbie, who will so freely give their time to share their passion with our students. It is a wonderful experience for our students, and it brings literature to life for them! Thank you, Debbie Ridpath Ohi, for a great time!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Robotics, Coding & Beyond

The new year brought new members to our after school Robotics & Coding club. We had 30 students in the library for the first meeting of 2015. Thankfully, we also had two parents helping!

It was so fun to see the number of students who had received either a Sphero or an Ollie for Christmas! I encouraged them to bring their own Sphero & device, and they did!

The first thing we did was participate in a Google Hangout with a young man who has graduated with a degree in computer science and currently works as a programmer. Aaron happens to be friends with my oldest daughter and was kind enough to visit with our students about opportunities they might have if they learn computer coding.

He works in Austin, Texas for a start up company, but has also worked for Samsung. Aaron shared how he has people who approach him about jobs, having received an email just that day about a job opportunity. I wanted the students to know that although it is fun playing with the Sphero robotics balls, that it could lead to more. With House Bill 5, students will choose a focus in high school. One of the strands is STEM. Robotics and coding feed right into this, and I hope that through our after school club, students might decide that this is something they are interested in.

The students listened intently as Aaron shared that he did not do any coding until he got into college and how he was impressed that they were doing these things in elementary school. It was also very interesting to hear him say that the majority of the people he works with are men, but the few women he works with are very talented. We have quite a few girls in the club, and I saw smiles on their faces as he said this. It made me wonder how many of them might go into this field when they finish school.

After we finished visiting with Aaron, Dr. Keith talked to the students about an early form of coding-- Morse code. Some of the students were familiar with Morse code, and were excited to share what they knew. Dr. Keith talked to the students about using Morse code to program the Sphero balls. 

We are using the SPRK Education Program on the Sphero website. These lessons are a great way to extend the learning with Sphero. With these lessons, students learn to program Sphero and Ollie, instead of just driving them with an iPad app. 

Our after school club keeps growing and it will be exciting to see what all they learn this school year. I would love to hear from others who are using Sphero robotics balls and Ollies in the elementary school. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Let the Research Begin!

After a wonderful Christmas break, we started the new year on Monday.

With research projects on the horizon in each grade level, it is important for the students to know HOW to find information and WHERE to find information. Our students have access to several different databases, but too often these are forgotten when research assignments are assigned. One way to make sure teachers don't forget about the paid databases is to go through the students. If I teach the students all of the databases then they will remind their teachers about it! 

One of the things that make accessing our databases so easy is MackinVia. This is what we use to house all of our e-resources. Students can access ebooks, online databases and audio books. With our recent update, students only need the User ID and the Password. There is no need to select a school.

Here students can easily locate our online databases without additional logins. Several of these databases also have read along capabilities which make them a great tool for Daily 5 time. 

We also looked at World Book online. This is our first year using this database. One aspect the students are really enjoying is the Dramatic Learning part. Here they can find plays and reader's theater  grouped by grade level, subject and title. 

We explored both World Book Kids and World Book Student. Students talked about the differences between the two, recognizing that sometimes it might be more effective to use one rather than the other.

Fifth graders are doing research on US regions, so that was our focus as we looked at World Book Online as well as TrueFlix. TrueFlix is a perfect tool for this, as there is an ebook for each region of focus.  Students can also easily find additional resources on TrueFlix, as well as a short video clip. Fifth graders will be presenting their research with either a Weebly website or a Thinglink.  Before Christmas break, students came to the library to learn about these two tools. I can't wait to see what they create!

Third graders have been enjoying PebbleGo Biographies, so we looked at the new PebbleGo Science and all it has to offer.  While looking at this, we talked about using key words to search for specific topics.  


In addition, we discussed the importance of citing sources while doing research. PebbleGo makes it easy for students to cite sources!

My hope with these lessons is to equip students with research skills that will enable them to get started on their assigned projects. As a classroom teacher, I remember it being difficult to teach research skills, assign a project and also have the time to actually have students complete the project. By teaching research skills to students before the classroom teacher assigns the project, it allows the teacher to focus more on the actual project. 

In future lessons, we will focus more on keyword searches and practice citing sources. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Coding & Robotics Week 3

This week, during our Coding & Robotics club time, our students were actually able to program the Sphero Robotics balls using the app MacroLab.  Thankfully, Dr. Keith explained all of this to the students!

He started our club time by showing the students that they could actually do more with the Sphero balls that just drive them using the iPads as a remote control. Using our big screen, he demonstrated how to command the Sphero to do what you want it to do using an app called Sphero Macrolab.

Basic programming was explained to the students, as well as degrees and angles. The Sphero Macrolab site says, "The macro system we have developed for Sphero has very practical applications, such as teaching kids procedural thinking and basic programming skills."

It was very exciting to watch the students actually program the Sphero instead of driving it with the iPad app. There was definitely collaboration and critical thinking involved in this process, as pairs of students worked together to drive the Sphero ball.

iPads ready with the Sphero MacroLab app
The students did a great job of applying what Dr. Keith had taught them, and Sphero balls were buzzing all around the library! 

A few students worked with the new Sphero Ollie, using their own device to control it. We had a little difficulty finding the right device to pair with it as it seems our iPads are too old for the app to work. Luckily, a couple of our students had newer devices and downloaded the app. That is a great thing about being a BYOD campus! Someone usually has a device that will work!

As if learning to program the Sphero balls weren't enough, we also brought out the new Makey-Makey we received through Donors Choose. I have to admit that I have been a little intimidated by the Makey-Makey, but the students (with the help of Dr. Keith) figured it out quickly! We even had students come in during lunch the next day to explore it more!

Next week we will continue to learn programming using the Sphero ball and the Sphero Ollie. After the Christmas break we will bring in new members to learn coding and robotics, while the current members continue learning. It is exciting to hear the students talking about coding, coming into the library during lunch, recess and any free time, to work with the computers or Sphero balls! 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

2014 Edublog Awards

The Edublog Awards are an annual event that celebrate "the best of the best on the web". It began in 2004 as a response to the lack of access to learner and teacher blog sites. It's purpose is to "promote and demonstrate the educational values of these social media." Curtis Elementary was excited to learn that there are two blogs that have been named finalists. Our assistant principal, Lorie Bratcher's blog, Passion Lives Here, has made the short list in the Best New Blog category.

Our own library blog, Continuously Learning in the Library, is a finalist in the Best Library/Librarian Blog category.  

I am honored to be a finalist, but I know that I am only there because of some pretty incredible people who are also nominated! I would encourage you to look at each category and find new people to add to your PLN (Personal Learning Network.) While you are there, vote for some of the people that make you better. Thankfully, you can vote for more than one in each category, which is great since it is hard to choose between all of the great blogs, chats, and tools!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Robotics and Coding Club

Curtis students met for the second time last week  for the Robotics & Coding club. This session there are four weeks and students will be able to work with the Sphero robotics balls & Ollies for 2 weeks and code for two weeks. We are using for coding, as well as other sites that can be found on our Coding Symbaloo.

With 20 members in the club, and more wanting to join each day, having help is necessary. Thankfully, we have a parent who enjoys working with the students. Dr. Keith Emmert also happens to be a math professor at a nearby university so that is an added bonus! In addition to Dr. Keith, as the kiddos call him, we also had two high school students who were working for community service hours. This was a big help! 

The students loved the addition of the Ollies to the robotics club. We did have a little difficulty finding a device that would run the app. It seems are library iPads are too old to run it, and even my phone wouldn't run the app. Fortunately, two students had devices that would run the app, so we were able to see how they worked.

The plan will be to continue to work with these students with coding & robotics, even after the four weeks are up, and then bring in more students. 

There was a tweet recently that said something to the effect of "it isn't possible if you don't know it is possible". This is one of the main reasons we are introducing coding to our students. As they move through middle school and high school, they will pick a track to focus on. As the site says in one of their videos, approximately one million jobs may go unfilled due to not having a skilled workforce for computer coders. Maybe a few of our students will choose to learn more. We have one student who created an app after participating in Hour of Code last year.

Grant explaining his app to Mrs. Rife

It is fun to see students becoming more comfortable with coding and operating the Sphero & Ollie. As we head into Hour of Code week, I'm excited to see what they discover! One thing I've learned is that I don't have to be an expert at something before I open it up to students. If I waited until I was comfortable with coding and robotics, our club would never have started. I am learning right beside my students!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Maker Clubs Finish Strong! Spooky Creations

Today we wrapped up the first session of our maker clubs and it was incredible to hear our students share what they learned from this experience. As parents began to enter the library for our presentation, there was a flurry of activity. The students were creating until the very last minute!

We had a full house, and the students were excited to show their creations! The maker club had created a haunted house, a graveyard with rotating tombstones, a spider and a scorpion. One of our Curtis parents, Dr. Keith Emmert worked with this group and the students really enjoyed having him lead their group. The green screen club had used those items, created a script, uploaded images and, using the Do Ink green screen app,  created a haunted movie. 

It was very impressive how eloquently the students explained what they did and what they learned. One student shared how even though what they were doing was "hard, really hard!" it made them want to do more and try harder.

Each student had the opportunity to speak, and I was so proud of their courage! They not only took ownership of their clubs, they took ownership of this presentation. I loved how one student talked about how they weren't always successful, that there were definite failures during the learning process. They talked about working together, not giving up, getting better at what they were doing, and thanked Dr. Keith a lot! 

After everyone spoke who wanted to, we showed their green screen creations, which highlighted the maker club's creations! There were a few giggles as they saw their haunted movies on the big screen. There was even requests to watch their "bloopers"! We will upload the creations to our YouTube channel so that students can see them again.

Here are some pictures of our time together. We met one day a week for five weeks. Some students came in during recess to work on their projects. 

The first session of the maker clubs was a success in everyone's eyes! Parents were proud, students were proud, and there was a very proud librarian! I can't wait to see what our next group accomplishes! Our next session will be basic programming using the Sphero robotics ball. Students are really excited about it!